Iran's culture minister hangs on to face charges
TEHRAN, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Iran's influential minister of culture, the
man behind a revival of the country's arts and letters, said on Tuesday
he was not prepared to step down under the cloud of a judicial inquiry.
Ataollah Mohajerani, minister of culture and Islamic guidance, told
reporters outside a closed parliamentary hearing that his earlier offers
of resignation were on hold pending a court case against him for alleged
misuse of funds.
Mohajerani, blamed by the conservative establishment for what it sees
as a watering down of Islamic and revolutionary ideals, submitted his resignation
to President Mohammad Khatami in early October.
Press reports said at the time it was the minister's second attempt
to step down. Neither offer has been accepted by Khatami, himself a former
culture minister once forced out by hardliners.
"A dossier entitled 'offences of the minister of culture and Islamic
guidance', has been compiled by the Inspectorate General, and I must give
a response," said Mohajerani.
"I will remain minister of guidance while the file is before the
At issue are allegations that his ministry improperly used interest
earned on deposits by Muslim pilgrims for the Haj to Mecca, an obligation
for all believers able to make or afford the trip.
The ministry says it used the interest to build and stock provincial
libraries and provide other cultural services. It also cites similar practices
by past administrations.
But critics say the monies should be returned to the pilgrims, some
of whom have waited years for their trips.
Mohajerani has been under sustained attack by conservatives who accuse
him of failing to stem the tide of "Westoxification" in newspapers,
books and cinema.
But reformist activists have criticised the proposed resignation saying
the minister should resist hardliners' pressure to leave the cabinet.